3,000 Celebrate Mass of Thanksgiving in Diocese

FAIRFIELD—Three thousand Catholics from every corner of Fairfield County gathered together in thanksgiving as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano celebrated a Mass to inaugurate a Diocesan Eucharistic Renewal, promising that “a new future of our Church will erupt in our midst in this county and in your communities.”

“You and I can dare to believe there is a future to our Church that is not chained to the sad episodes of the past,” Bishop Caggiano told the packed arena on Saturday, “but a future to our Church that will erupt in our own midst with a joyful song as we gather around the Lord, who has not abandoned us — a Lord who has not left us to our own devices, a Lord who does not wave to us from the distance at the right hand of the Father, but is with us, abides with us, walks with us, caresses us, has mercy on us, calls to forgive us and will love us to the end.”

View Bishop Caggiano’s Mass of Thanksgiving homily

The faithful, who filled the Leo D. Mahoney Arena at Fairfield University, included 140 priests, 50 deacons and scores of religious sisters and brothers, who came to the Mass of Thanksgiving, which culminated the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage that passed through the diocese at the end of May.

They raised their voices in song and prayer and praise. They wept, they rejoiced, they knelt in humble adoration as the Eucharistic Christ passed through their midst, held in the monstrance by the bishop. They applauded when he promised a diocesan renewal for “our large, richly diverse and beautiful family of faith …. to show the whole world that Jesus Christ is alive in the Diocese of Bridgeport.”

Bishop Caggiano also announced what he called “Part II of the Eucharistic Procession,” which will begin in the autumn and visit the parishes in the northern part of the diocese that could not participate last month.

In addition, he said more events and initiatives are going to be launched, including the Guild of the Blessed Sacrament, which is open to the clergy, religious and laity. The guild will have as its primary goal “deepening the personal holiness of each member by fostering a Eucharistic Spirituality by deepening reverence for the Blessed Sacrament through prayer and adoration.” For further information, click here:

In his homily, the bishop recounted the four days that the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage passed through eight towns in the diocese along the Seton Route, one of four nationwide that will converge in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress in July.

He recalled the “moments of grace” showered upon the 7,000 people who joined the procession. Bishop Caggiano said he was especially moved on the third day, when he celebrated the Eucharist at St. Matthew Church in Norwalk and took part in a procession to St. John’s Cemetery.

“We processed to a place in a moment of grace that, I must confess, my friends, has transformed my life,” he recalled. “On that morning, we took our Eucharistic Lord to that place of rest for those who ate his Body and drank his Blood, and rest now in the sleep of peace. And it was remarkable to see the Eucharistic Lord being carried in the midst of rows and rows and rows of those who are awaiting his return in glory. And the words we heard in Sacred Scripture, in the Gospel today, jumped out and became alive in my own mind that, quite frankly, up to that point, I had understood, but not felt so deeply: ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall live forever.’ On that morning, the Lord, the Eucharistic King, was claiming the living and the dead.”

Bishop Caggiano said the pilgrimage was “an extraordinary period of grace in the Diocese of Bridgeport, where we walked from parish to parish with different languages, different races, different cultures and liturgical prayer, recalling the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: ‘Though we be many, we are one body in Christ again.”

The events were to him “a living catechism” with moments of grace, particularly seeing young people from the diocese’s schools, “their faces lit, alive, joyful, laughing, bowing, waving their handkerchiefs in jubilation because they knew in their young hearts that this was not the bread the Israelites grumbled over, this was not just a sign or symbol, this was their Lord.”

Photos by Amy Mortensen

“For you see, my friends, we gather here to celebrate the great mystery of our faith,” he said. “To enter into the death and resurrection of Christ, to receive his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. To be able to receive the foretaste of eternal life. And our renewal, which begins now, is not simply to learn our faith, but to live it and to proclaim it to a world that is starving for the Bread of Life.”

He told the thousands in the arena that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our life and that we come to ask for grace “to train, to walk, to run, to leap to the summit. For if you think of our own world — and I discovered this in four days — you need to be fit to walk. And so we gather here not simply to say we have arrived at the summit, but to train in these years ahead in all the work associated with The One, so that we may run with hearts burning to the top of the summit, which is here [at the altar] every day of our lives.”

He called upon them to practice their faith with greater fervor and to share their faith, saying, “Our task is to allow his abiding presence to transform our lives and come to the Eucharist — running to the Eucharist, to this summit, every day of our lives renewed, recommitted and dedicated to allow every Christian, every Catholic, every person of good will to discover what we have discovered…. For the Eucharist, my friends, is Christ the Lord, the master, the savior, and he who claims the living and the dead unto eternal life. To him be glory, honor, thanksgiving and power, now and forever.”

Prior to the Solemn Pontifical Mass, there was a program of prayer, music and reflection with stations for confession that drew long lines of people. In a display of diversity in unity, the prayers and readings were said in English, Spanish, French-Creole, Vietnamese, Portuguese and Polish.

Dr. Patrick Donovan, Director of the Institute for Catholic Formation said, “During the prayers, I was most struck by the many voices in different languages. This is what St. Paul reminds us. One voice. Many parts. Many voices. One prayer. What a joy to be a part of a diocese that is growing in faith. The energy of the faithful is palpable.”

In his closing comments, Bishop Caggiano thanked all those who had worked tirelessly to make the Eucharistic Pilgrimage and the Mass of Thanksgiving possible, including the liturgical musicians and Dr. William H. Atwood, Organist and Diocesan Director of Music Ministry, along with the other ministries that provided music. He also expressed his gratitude to Dr. Mark R. Nemec, President of Fairfield University, and his administration for their support and allowing the use of the arena.

He thanked the many volunteers and the people who came to the Mass of Thanksgiving and told them, “Let us make this renewal a permanent part of every single life of a disciple who follows in the footsteps of Jesus.”

By Joe Pisani